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Wilmington Continues Analysis of School Security

School Committee members discussed what possible changes could come in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn.

During Wednesday’s School Committee meeting, Wilmington school officials discussed the district’s security in the wake of December’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton said that even before the Newtown incident, Wilmington had been working towards implementing the Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate (ALICE) method of school safety training. That will likely be implemented by this fall as teachers and staff members become trained.

The district is holding a public hearing on March 7 to explain to the community what the ALICE program is about. Benton said that ALICE is designed to give adults the ability to make quick decisions in the event that a shooter does enter the school.

Currently, schools lock their doors 15 minutes after students come in and there are cameras in place to provide a visual of who is attempting to buzz into the school.

“I think we all struggle with how we find a balance between finding a safe building without building a fortress,” said Benton. “Our schools are not fortresses, and they’re not meant to be.”

School Committee member Robert Hayes said that when the ALICE proposal was initially brought to the board last year, he was hesitant to impliment it at the elementary school level because the children are so young. Hayes said on Wednesday night, however, that he has since changed his mind.

“I was skeptical, and thought it would be best for grades six through twelve,” said Hayes. “After Sandy Hook, I am completely sold on the program and support the decision of having it throughout the entire district.”

There are some measures, however, that will not be possible for cost reasons, according to Benton. The superintendent said she was “shocked” to learn that it costs $200 per square foot for bulletproof glass when she looked into it as a possibility at the new high school. At that rate, it would cost about $90,000 per door.

Instead, the building architects recommended laminate, shatter proof glass.

Another move that Benton said is too expensive for the district’s budget is placing a police officer in every school. She added that there also are not enough retired police officers who would be able to volunteer to fill that roll.

Benton did say the district will look at what changes it could make at all of its schools, including the schools that do not have a secretary’s office directly next to the entrance.

“We need to think about that,” said Benton. “I’m not ready yet to make a recommendation on what to do. I encourage the community to send me ideas.”

Kevin MacDonald January 11, 2013 at 02:43 AM
I am definitely glad that superintendent Benton does not teach Mathematics. $200 per sq. ft. cost for bullet proof Glass and she thinks that it will cost $90,000 per door. If a door is 3 foot X 7 foot in size, it is only 21 sq. ft. Is she in charge of totaling the cost of the new school? Is this why it is $82,000,000?
Kevin MacDonald January 11, 2013 at 02:51 AM
We have six or seven schools with a high concentration of defenseless children and a police department costing taxpayers million dollars per year. Take a look at all the cruisers parked behind the station at all times and take a look at how many are in the station instead of in the schools securing them. We are paying the school superintendent $175,000 per year and a Town Manager well into a six figure salary and they can't figure this out? Could there be a total absence of leadership?
Wilmington Mom January 11, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Kevin, no one reading your comments is giving them any merit. You may once have been a normal, everyday citizen and people may have stopped to consider what you said. However, you have now proven yourself the laughing stock of this village and no one cares what you think. Did you ever stop to think that maybe Ms. Benton was misquoted? Or that her math meant for the first floor, not per door? The point of the article is that they are exploring options to keep our children safe. That is what is important to us parents. Should we jump on you for saying that we have "six or seven schools..."? For someone who apparently researched the educational needs of Wilmington with such detail as to be able to provide us with several options for our new high school needs, you seem to be making a pretty big mistake here. Wilmington has 8 schools. Boutwell, Wildwood, Woburn St., Shawsheen, North, West, Middle and High. Ok... Everyone jump on Mr. McDonald as he did Ms. Benton for a simple mistake. Do you see the point I am making, Kevin? It is time for you to either stop trashing every aspect of Wilmington; our new High School, our superintendent, our police, our town manager, etc, etc, etc OR it is time for you to move somewhere that they run things to your liking. Anyone else agree???
Wilmington Mom January 11, 2013 at 01:49 PM
By the way.. Thank you, Matt, for helping keep us parents in the loop with all the town is doing to insure out children's well being. I love that the Patch is here in town and keeps me up to date with everything that is going on!
Wilmington Mom January 11, 2013 at 01:49 PM
*our
BOOKevinMacDonald out January 11, 2013 at 02:45 PM
How many schools do we have?? Get your Facts Straight! You think your right about everything, no one else thinks so. Get a Job
Tom January 11, 2013 at 03:11 PM
One option that the School Committee should definitely look at is panic buttons in all of the schools. A one touch button (direct to the police) that is available to the front desk personnel if they feel that they are under a threat of any sort. I think that this is a feasible plan that could be implemented in all of the schools in town.
Matt Schooley (Editor) January 11, 2013 at 03:15 PM
That's an interesting idea, Tom. I would definitely suggest mentioning it to the superintendent as she stated during the meeting that she and the School Committee welcome suggestions from the community to help make the district as safe as possible. Thanks for checking in!
Mary Ward January 11, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Steel doors at all entrances & all classrooms , no glass, cameras for visuals, all staff should carry mace, who cares if it looks like a fortress it is what it is
gbd January 12, 2013 at 12:08 AM
I agree with Wilmington Mom. No one real cares or wants to here from Kevin MacDonald anymore. Comments are great but what you write is garbage. It's time for Kevin to move on. No one cares what you say
Matt Schooley (Editor) January 12, 2013 at 12:23 AM
A comment has been deleted for violating Patch's terms of use.
Kevin MacDonald January 12, 2013 at 12:25 AM
The existing building is built like a fortress with masonry walls. The proposed school is not going to be built this way. The architect stated at initial meetings that the current building is structurally sound. Why decrease the safety by knocking it down? I'm waiting for some local hero to propose that we transport the students by armored personnel carriers so the cops don't sprain their fingernails or break a sweat actually earning their salaries and securing our students,schools and buildings that may be a school wannabe !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kevin MacDonald January 12, 2013 at 01:15 AM
Does a building qualify as a school when 49% of the eighth graders are in the warning or needs improvement category in mathematics? Does a building qualify as a town school if it is run by a private organization?
Matt Schooley (Editor) January 12, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Just for a point of clarification, we reported on those statistics in October 2011. Here is a link to what is being referenced, and an excerpt is below. http://wilmington.patch.com/articles/school-committee-principals-discuss-improvement-plans ------ A total of 50 percent of eighth graders were in the warning or needs improvement section of the results, which is an increase of 13 percent from the previous test when 37 percent of students fell in that category. The state average of students in those areas is 47 percent. “The eighth grade has been an enigma,” said principal Christine McMenimen. “We wonder if they realize the accountability and responsibility they have with the test. You hear a lot of, ‘Does this count now?’ That’s one piece of the puzzle. The teaching needs to be another piece of the puzzle.”
Kevin MacDonald January 12, 2013 at 07:04 AM
You forgot the Glen Road school "Wilmington Mom". Is that where first grade is being taught throughout?
Wilmington Mom January 12, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Last time I checked... The Glen Rd. school is the town hall. Is this some lame attempt at a joke trashing the Wilmington government?

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